Avoid Multiple Freeze/Thaw Cycles: Woolly Bear Caterpillars

Recently, I was walking through a local park near Promega, when I spotted my first woolly bear of the season. As this furry brown and black caterpillar wandered along in front of me, I recalled the old wives’ tale about the width of their stripes being indicative of the upcoming winter fury. Spotting that little fellow in the sidewalk piqued my curiosity, and I decided to see what I could discover about my friend, the woolly bear. Continue reading “Avoid Multiple Freeze/Thaw Cycles: Woolly Bear Caterpillars”

The Chemistry of Autumn Colors

The bright colors of autumn leavesHere in Wisconsin, the leaves are starting to turn the characteristic reds, oranges and yellows of autumn. This is one of my favorite times of the year (not only because of Mother Nature’s impressive displays but also because we are nearing that magical time between the last lawn mowing and the first snow shoveling). This is the time of year that I try to take in as much color as I can before everything is covered in a blanket of white.

As I stroll around, enjoying the view, I think about the chemical changes within the leaves that cause such vibrant colors. I can’t help myself; I am a scientist.
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A Time for Harvest

Here in the northern hemisphere, yesterday, September 23, was the first full day of autumn. The days are not as long as those in midsummer and will only get shorter. Leaves are starting to turn color and fall from the trees, pumpkins abound in fields and roadside stands, and farmers are harvesting their crops.

My dad and my brother still farm the land owned by my great, great, great grandfather. Although times are different with larger, more powerful machinery, new seed genetics available each year and GPS to help ensure appropriate fertilization and seed density for each field, they are subject to the same vagaries as the previous six generations. Continue reading “A Time for Harvest”